Clause 19

Finance Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 12:30 pm on 2nd June 2009.

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Rates of gaming duty

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Greg Hands Greg Hands Shadow Minister (Treasury)

I just have a couple of points to raise on the clause.

The threshold increases, as outlined in clause 19, are in line with inflation; we have no particular issue with them. However, I would briefly like to raise with the Minister the relationship between gaming duty and remote gaming duty. In a written parliamentary answer, she told the hon. Member for Bournemouth, East (Mr. Ellwood) that

HMRC are not currently able to publish a breakdown of remote gaming duty while maintaining taxpayer confidentiality.”

Now that strikes me as a very curious answer. Real casinos cannot move offshore, but online casinos can. Is it really the case that the Government are raising so little revenue from the internet form of gaming duty that saying how much they are getting would compromise  individual operators? I would appreciate an answer to that question, but other than that I have no comments to make on clause 19.

Photo of Robert Syms Robert Syms Conservative, Poole

Clearly some of the international, Gibraltar-based type organisations that have been raising internet gambling have been hit on by the American taxman. One presumes that there might be an issue if we have what is, essentially, a British company being hit by other tax authorities. Why would we not want to say what we are actually raising? It is an interesting area to explore—if one can possibly explore it, since tracking people down on the internet is not a terribly easy area.

Photo of Angela Eagle Angela Eagle The Exchequer Secretary, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

We could have long and interesting discussions about the effect of the world wide web and offshoring on all sorts of tax regimes. It is something that all tax jurisdictions have to think about and develop policy approaches to in the future as the capacity for giving those services offshore, in areas that are not in the current definitions of tax areas, expands and the potential for doing that in many other areas increases. Gaming is one such area.

The hon. Member for Hammersmith and Fulham asked about taxpayer confidentiality in remote gaming duty. The fact is that one large taxpayer accounts for a huge share of total remote gaming duty revenues, and to provide those figures would effectively expose to public view the tax liability of an easily identifiable taxpayer, which is why I could not answer the question.

Photo of Robert Syms Robert Syms Conservative, Poole

What information sharing is there between Treasuries in the European Union on the issue? If one major player is generating tax revenue, other tax authorities might have agreements over what they do with those who are domestically based and bet. Do we all do our own thing, or is there some kind of discussion about whether the figures received from a particular company are accurate? I understand the Minister’s problem if there is only one company writing a large cheque every three months or so to cover an agreed tax liability that has no doubt been negotiated under certain conditions.

Photo of Angela Eagle Angela Eagle The Exchequer Secretary, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

Because only one large taxpayer accounts for the bulk of the revenue in total remote gaming duty revenues, answering the question would have disclosed its tax affairs, and we are not entitled to do that.

Photo of Mark Hoban Mark Hoban Shadow Minister (Treasury)

Is it not the case that the amount of tax that that taxpayer pays is disclosed in its accounts, and that the information is available in that way? That would get around the issue of taxpayer confidentiality.

Photo of Angela Eagle Angela Eagle The Exchequer Secretary, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

It may well be, and we may want to talk about taxpayer confidentiality in all sorts of ways, but the current rules state that, as a Treasury Minister, I cannot disclose to the public, in answer to a parliamentary question, something that effectively identifies the tax liabilities of an obviously identifiable company, which in UK law is a person and which is entitled to confidentiality in its tax returns. That is the current law. As legislators, we might want to think about how the law could be represented in the future; current circumstances, however, mean that I cannot answer the question that was put.

Photo of Greg Hands Greg Hands Shadow Minister (Treasury)

Can the hon. Lady suggest a way in which she could answer a question that was put differently?

Photo of Angela Eagle Angela Eagle The Exchequer Secretary, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

No, that is a matter for the hon. Gentleman; I am not going to suggest questions for me to answer. I am not quite that devious, even though I am getting on in years. I look forward to what comes my way as a result of these quick words, because the hon. Gentleman is so ingenious.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 19 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.